When one parent becomes delinquent or fails to pay child support in violation of a court order, it can cause financial and emotional stress for the other parent. The situation can become so overwhelming that the custodial parent may consider withholding visitation with their child from the other parent. In Georgia, visitation is not dependent on child support and it is unlawful for parents to withhold court-ordered visitation due to delinquent child support payments. Parents who suspend court-ordered visitation due to child support arrears risk being found in contempt of court or, at a minimum, being viewed unfavorably by the court. The proper course of action to address the child support arrears is to allow visitation to continue and either file a contempt action with the court or contact your local Office of Child Support Enforcement.
Alternatively, the situation sometimes arises where non-custodial parents consider withholding child support when the other spouse won’t allow them to exercise their court-ordered visitation with their children. Under Georgia law, visitation and child support are two separate issues that are not dependent upon one another. Therefore, just as the custodial parent can’t deny visitation due to delinquent child support, a parent who pays child support can’t withhold payments because his/her spouse is violating the terms of court-ordered visitation. Suspending child support, even under these circumstances, can result in a contempt action and other unfavorable consequences. There is, however, one exception to this rule, which is when a parent disappears with the child for an extended period of time. In this rare circumstance, some courts have agreed that it is not unlawful to suspend child support payments until such time as the parent and child are located. Aside from this exception, the proper course of action to address the violation of the terms of court-order visitation is to file a contempt action with the court. If you have questions regarding visitation and child support, contact an attorney specializing in divorce and family law at The Faucette Law Firm–(770) 485-6620.